By Peter J. Mikulecky, Chris Hren

Part of Chemistry Workbook For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Someone who doesn’t know chemistry may think that compounds should already have names, but you know differently. The following steps take you through the process of writing the name of any chemical you’re likely to encounter in a general chemistry class:

  1. Does the formula begin with an H?

    If so, the compound is most likely an acid. Use the rules for naming an acid.

  2. Does the formula contain a metal (not hydrogen)?

    If it doesn’t, you need to use prefixes when naming because you’re dealing with a molecular (covalent) compound. Be sure to change the ending of the second element to -ide. If there is a metal, you’re dealing with an ionic compound — proceed to Step 3.

  3. Is the cation a transition metal (Group B) or a metal with a variable charge?

    If the cation is a Group B metal (or other metal of variable charge, like tin), you need to use a Roman numeral to specify its charge. If the cation isn’t a transition metal and you know the charge, you don’t need to specify the charge.

  4. Is the anion a polyatomic ion?

    If so, you write the name of the polyatomic ion. If the anion isn’t a polyatomic ion, you use an ide ending.